It can be difficult to continue the story of a game with branching choices in another medium that is less interactive, with its own different strengths. The debut arc, Life Is Strange: Dust, in the Titan Comics adaptation of the Square Enix game series makes it work by referring to one possible game ending and sticking to it and its fallout.
Life Is Strange: Dust collects the first four issues of the comic adaptation into a single graphic novel volume. Armed with a separate recap of the game and one selected ending, readers can follow the graphic novel even without a full playthrough of the source material.
With writing by Emma Vieceli, art by Claudia Leonardi, and colors by Andrea Izzo, the comic adaptation starts off with a metaphysically twisting story that feels very appropriate given the source material. Life Is Strange: Dust follows one possible game ending in which Max Caulfield used her ability to rewind time to prevent the death of her best-friend-later-girlfriend Chloe Price. This choice came at the cost of their hometown Arcadia Bay, destroyed by a hurricane that formed when the past was changed.
Now one year later, Max and Chloe’s efforts to move on have hit a dead end as it appears Max has been jumping through time again—but this time, it’s out of her control. The two return to Arcadia Bay in the hopes of resolving this new problem, and maybe even find closure.
Leonardi’s art hits a sweet aesthetic of not too naturalistic and more appealingly stylistic. The inking is solid and comes together for angles, edges, and curves designed well for something breathlessly cool. Izzo’s colors add to this, always making Chloe’s signature blue hair work in any scene she’s in, mixing cooler purples with autumnal shades, and other hues in between.
Vieceli’s writing is solid, able to get the audience up to speed relatively quickly and suck them into a new engaging story. Much of Life Is Strange: Dust works as an effective character study for Max and Chloe and their relationship, which is never boring or distracting, and is always at the core of the story. Their bond is emotional and engaging, something fully realized and fleshed out not only through Vieceli’s writing, but also Leonardi’s art. The way she draws their emotions and body language pairs perfectly with the words, embodying the best of sequential art and comics.
Supporting characters are similarly written well, and there is even a memorable scene with a band that the couple befriends, which serves as a reminder that the world continues beyond them. It also provides a clue in the ongoing temporal mystery; that whatever is going on, Max and Chloe are in a real world and not some false timeline.
With the way the mystery unfolds, there were definitely moments where I briefly wondered if they were in some sort of unreal dimension. The elements of the unexplained time jumps will keep you guessing and theorizing until the pieces start falling into place.
While the concept of time travel can be tricky to effectively pull off in any story, Life is Strange: Dust makes it work well enough when it starts clarifying its evolution into a multiverse with alternate timelines. Even before things start making more sense, there’s a tantalizing and unsettling build-up to those later revelations, with scenes of Max stumbling into different dimensions without warning, visions of places where Chloe died instead, and an intense and emotional sequence that gives some bittersweet resolution to Chloe and her mother.
Though Life Is Strange: Dust ends with a door open for a continuation, the story’s finale does feel like a conclusion. Bittersweet, with lasting twists and hints of hope, it’s an arc that ultimately wraps up well.
The story of Life Is Strange: Dust continues in the fifth issue of the Life Is Strange comic series, which is available today. This kicks off a new 4-part arc called “Waves,” which already has a graphic novel compilation scheduled for release on Oct. 22.
Did you follow the first arc of the Life Is Strange comics when they were being released as separate issues? Do you plan to catch up with Life Is Strange: Dust? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.